Iowa gymnastics fifth year JerQuavia Henderson retiring to focus on mental health

By Caroline Price | January 10, 2024
Iowa’s JerQuavia Henderson competes on floor at the 2023 NCAA Gymnastics Regional in Norman, Oklahoma on Thursday, March 30, 2023. (Alyssa Skala/
© Alyssa Skala/

Iowa gymnastics fifth year JerQuavia Henderson announced Wednesday that she is retiring from gymnastics to focus on her mental health.

This announcement came as a surprise to gymnastics fans – just two days before the Hawkeyes open their 2024 season against Washington. 

JerQuavia Henderson’s career-high floor routine.

Henderson was a team leader and one of the Hawkeyes’ star gymnasts, owning the program record on floor (9.975) along with two Big Ten floor titles. She was instrumental in Iowa’s growth over the past four seasons, helping lead the Hawkeyes to the 2021 Big Ten regular season title. Her dynamic and powerful gymnastics will be missed by gymnastics fans everywhere.

JerQuavia addressed Iowa gymnastics fans via an open letter. Read her full message below:

An Open Letter from JerQuavia Henderson

“Being a student-athlete at the University of Iowa has been one of the most amazing opportunities I have been blessed to receive. I have been fortunate as this program has allowed me to excel in ways I never thought possible.

When I announced my return, it came as no surprise that I would come back to continue the sport I love with the people I cherish. As training resumed for this season, my body wasn’t responding the way it normally did and trying to work through it, along with a rigorous class schedule, was more than I could handle. With the support of my coaching staff, the university, and my team, I have made the difficult decision to step away from gymnastics and school to take care of myself.

At Iowa, I have learned a lot about mental health and been empowered to use my voice. I am grateful that I was given the space to acknowledge my struggle and do what was necessary to take care of myself.

To my coaches, thank you for endless support both on the floor and in the classroom. I have been extremely blessed with a coaching staff who cares about me as a person before anything else. Thank you for the valuable lessons, the laughter, the tough conversations and the endless joy you have brought to my life. Thank you most of all for allowing me the space to grow into myself, find my voice and use it to make a difference.

To my team, thank you for the endless memories and the ones yet to come. Before coming to Iowa, I had no idea what being on a team meant. I have had the privilege to train beside many amazing women and each and every one of you have influenced me greatly. Family, something that because of Iowa, I will have forever.

To the University and our academic support systems, thank you for the opportunity to study and receive my bachelor’s degree from a place of high prestige. Thank you for the many accommodations you provide student-athletes with to excel and achieve academic excellence. On the best campus in the nation, I have made many connections with other Hawkeyes from every corner of the world.

And finally, to Hawkeye Nation. Thank you for your endless support and encouragement each and every season. You are more than just people in the stands who came to watch us compete. You are invested, loyal and committed to the Rise of our student-athletes in the classroom, in the competitive arena and professionally. I have grown close to many of you over the years, and I can truly say you are the best fans any athlete could ask for.

Moving forward, I am sad to say goodbye, but excited to experience the team from a different perspective and embark on the new challenges life has in store for me.” 

Henderson concluded her letter saying, “Once a Hawkeye, always a Hawkeye.”